How often have you gone to God to complain about somebody else, and He told you that the solution was that you needed to change? If you would repent and start functioning in a very selfless, humble way He could change that persons heart and bring healing and peace. No, thats not the answer to every situation. There are times we just need Gods protection. But that doesnt change the fact that Gods answer to many of the conflicts we face in our family or workplace or community or even our nation (2 Chron 7:12-15) is for us to repent and behave differently. Somehow it doesnt seem fair. After all, from our perspective we are usually only a small part of the problem. Sure, we may have our issues, but by far the greatest responsibility for this crisis rests on them, so why do I have to change? Why must I make the first move? Why am I the one who has to repent when they are much worse than I am? That doesnt seem fair! And its not. But if what were looking for is true peace, that rich, joyful kind of peace, where people actually love each other again and like being together, then somebody has to stop functioning in the flesh and start walking in the Spirit. Somebody has to start doing things Gods way, and His way is so radically different from our way it seems foolish, even dangerous. Somebody has to want to win the person more than they want to win the argument. Thats the way God brings peace, and it works. But doing it can be so painful and take so long we tend to avoid it and search for other answers. However if we refuse to listen to God and pursue other paths, in time we discover we only made the problem far worse. This was the underlying issue Israel was struggling with on Palm Sunday as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. This is why Jesus wept. This is why He said, If you had known this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes (Lk 19:42). Today, lets look more closely at the choice they made, and then ask ourselves which path we will choose.
Palm Sunday (Lk 19:37-44)
As this great assembly descended down the side of the Mount of Olives, word reached pilgrims already in the city that Jesus was coming. At this, a huge crowd rushed out of the gates and up the road to meet Him (Jn 12:12). They took branches cut from nearby palm trees and spread them in the road to join in honoring Jesus (Jn 12:13; Mt 21:8). At the place where the road turns downward across the Mount of Olives, a unified chant rose up from the multitude. Many had been traveling with Jesus for days, or possibly weeks. They had heard Him preach and watched Him perform many miracles of healing and deliverance, especially the raising of Lazarus only two days earlier (Jn 12:1, 17-19). This had produced great religious excitement. They felt sure Jesus must be their Messiah and that He would announce Himself to be their king as He rode into the city. The crowd chanted, or sang in unison, portions of Psalm 118, and cried out hosanna which is a combination of two Hebrew words meaning save now! (Mt 21:9; Mk 11:9, 10; Jn 12:13). They boldly shouted out the title Son of David which identified Jesus as the Messianic heir to King Davids throne. Their words would have been heard as threats of insurrection by the Roman government. What was happening had become more than a spiritual procession, it now had dangerous political overtones. Some religious leaders rushed to ask Jesus to silence His followers. If the soldiers became upset, a massacre could follow. Jesus was certainly aware of that danger, in fact, He had repeatedly avoided peoples political aspirations for Him all along (Jn 6:14, 15; Lk 9:20-22). But on this day the Father had commanded that His Son be revealed as Israels humble Messiah. On this day Jesus actually arranged for a colt to ride on, in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9. This was a special day in Gods plan. If the crowds had not welcomed Him, God would have caused inanimate objects to do it for them.
The view of the temple and city is beautiful from the Mount of Olives. At the bottom of the hill the road runs across the Kidron Valley and makes a short uphill climb into the towering eastern gate. Somewhere along this approach to the city, the Holy Spirit gave Jesus a prophetic vision of the destruction which would come upon the city as a result of their rejection of Him. In the midst of this great celebration, Jesus was brought to tears as the Spirit showed Him the horror that lay ahead for these people. His grief brought Him to sobbing and when, at last, He was able to speak He lamented over the city. His words were directed to Jerusalem, but He was speaking to the entire nation. Knowing that one of the reasons the religious leaders wanted to kill Him was to preserve peace with the Romans (Jn 11:47-53; 18:14), He warned them that they had chosen the wrong path to peace. And then, with breathtaking accuracy, He described the Roman siege of the city under Titus in AD70. In less than 40 years, everything He predicted would literally take place.
Lamb selection day (Ex 12:1-11)
By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey Jesus was declaring Himself to be the Messiah, but this was a special day for another reason as well. Passover was only four days away, and this was the day God had commanded every family in Israel to select a lamb to be eaten at the Passover meal. As Jesus rode into the city, God was offering His Son to die for them as their Passover Lamb. Would they choose this Lamb, and trust that because of His blood the angel of death would pass over them? As we know, most did not. Lets try to understand why.
There were two truths that Jesus taught that were particularly hard for the people to accept. One was that He pre-existed His birth, that He is Gods divine Son who came to earth from heaven. And the other is that it was necessary for Him to die an atoning death for their sins. These were the truths that got Him in trouble. These were the truths the religious leaders, the common people, and even His disciples argued against, or at least struggled to understand. They hadnt been taught these truths as children, and the idea that they were so sinful He had to die for them, was offensive, it was insulting. He kept telling them even the most zealous among them were sinners, that the whole human race was so evil, no human could rescue them. Thats why God had sent His Son. Before the glorious promises about Gods coming Kingdom could be fulfilled, the barrier of human guilt had to be removed. God couldnt bless them until He redeemed them. His Son had to come as the Passover Lamb before He could come as the Lion of Judah.
The way of peace (Isa 59)
This is the passage, I believe, Jesus wanted them to remember. He was pointing to a statement God made through Isaiah centuries earlier:
They do not know the way of peace, and there is no justice in their tracks, they have made their paths crooked, whoever treads on them does not know peace (Is 59:8).
In those days the people of Israel knew the Bible well, so Jesus could quote a small passage and they would realize He was pointing to a whole portion of Scripture, in this case the 59th chapter of Isaiah. In that chapter, God explains why great troubles were coming upon Israel, and what they needed to do so He would rescue them. Heres a summary of what He said:
Its not that I dont love you and want to save you. Its not that I dont have the power to save you, if I chose to. The problem is your sins have separated you from Me. I cant save you while youre still in that condition. It isnt right, it isnt just. You need to repent first and walk obediently, then I can help you. Sadly, I know you wont listen to this warning, you wont repent. Yet because I have a greater purpose to accomplish, I wont allow your stubbornness to stand in My way of saving people. Someday, I will personally come and save you from your enemies, and redeem those who repent.
In other words, God could help, God would help, if His people would repent and change the way they live: by turning away from oppression, lies, injustice and unrighteousness. Put simply: If we would get right with God, then He would use us to change the situation, and He would fight the battle for us.
If Israel had listened to Jesus and Isaiah on that Palm Sunday; if they had chosen to seek peace Gods way, and not through violence or compromise; if they had recognized Jesus battle plan, and had risen up in force to remove the barrier between them and God, and then carried His mercy and love to the rest of the people in that city and in that country, and even to their Roman oppressors, the destruction Jesus prophesied would not have happened, human history would somehow have changed
because they chose Gods path to peace.
Choosing Gods path (Jn 12:23-26)
The path of peace begins when I find peace with God. I have to change first. Then, when that happens, I become Gods soldier in a very different kind of battle, and I fight with very different kinds of weapons. Now my goal isnt to hurt people, but to love my enemy until he or she falls in love with my Lord and becomes a brother or sister. This is how Jesus came after His enemies: us. Its an entirely different kind of war, with an entirely different kind of victory.
John recorded something else Jesus said on that Palm Sunday. He was explaining that we would have to walk the same path that He had to walk. He was calling us to follow Him down that path
and warning us where it would lead
and promising us much fruit, Listen:
On this Palm Sunday: will we choose to believe that Jesus is Gods Son who came to die for our sins? And then will we choose to follow Him on His path of peace?
1) Has God used you to bring peace to some situation? Tell us about it. Was it hard or easy? Who became peaceful?
2) Have you ever been angry at other people only to discover that the real problem was you? I think this is true for all of us more than we know. If there is an example youd be wiling to share, please do.